Terrorist: A Novel

Christopher Hitchens in The Atlantic Monthly:

Updike_3 His “terrorist” is a boy named Ahmad living in today’s New Prospect, New Jersey, for whom the immolation of 3,000 of his fellow citizens is by no means enough. For him, only a huge detonation inside the Lincoln Tunnel will do. Let’s grant Updike credit for casting his main character against type: Ahmad is not only the nicest person in the book but is as engaging a young man as you could meet in a day’s march. Tenderly, almost lovingly, Updike feels and feels, like a family doctor, until he can detect the flickering pulse of principle that animates the would-be martyr.

Once again, obesity and consumerism and urban sprawl are the radix malorum. At the seaside:

Devils. The guts of the men sag hugely and the monstrous buttocks of the women seesaw painfully as they tread the boardwalk in swollen sneakers. A few steps from death, these American elders defy decorum and dress as toddlers.

Whereas in the schools:

“They think they’re doing pretty good, with some flashy-trashy new outfit they’ve bought at half-price, or the latest hyper-violent new computer game, or some hot new CD everyone has to have, or some ridiculous new religion when you’ve drugged your brain back into the Stone Age. It makes you wonder if people deserve to live seriously — if the massacre masterminds in Rwanda and Sudan and Iraq didn’t have the right idea.”

The speaker in this latter instance is Jack Levy, a burned-out little Jewish man with a wife named Beth (“a whale of a woman giving off too much heat through her blubber”).

More here.